By now we're all sick and tired of discussing the center position for the Colts. But when it's a need and a question mark entering next season, added with the fact that there's not much else to talk about, we get to talk about the center position quite a bit! Hopefully, however, this isn't just re-hasing what we've already gone over multiple times but rather helps to give an idea of where the Colts can go with the position in the draft.
The Colts drafted a center last year: USC's Khaled Holmes in the fourth round. At this point, Holmes looks like the clear starter for the Colts in the 2014 season, but due to the fact that he hardly played at all in 2013 there is uncertainty about it. The Colts didn't really help things in free agency despite having some good centers available. The only move they made was to sign Phil Costa (read my free agent profile on him), and quite honestly he's not a player you bring in to be the starting center.
In the draft, it's no sure thing that the Colts will add a center, either. They don't have a first round pick and only have five picks total, barring a trade. Ryan Grigson has said he doesn't necessarily like playing rookie offensive linemen because of the adjustment process. And the Colts seem very high on Khaled Holmes - whether we think they should be or not. Additionally, even if the Colts do draft a center that doesn't automatically mean he will be the starter or even turn out to be a good player in the future, either. There is some uncertainty there. All of that translates to uncertainty about whether the Colts will even address the position in next month's draft. I think they should. And if they do decide to, there are some good players who will be available to them.
Widely regarded as the three best centers in this year's draft are Colorado State's Weston Richburg, USC's Marcus Martin, and Arkansas's Travis Swanson. None of them are projected to go before the second round and I would expect it to be until the mid-second round before one of them gets drafted, with the other two following suit within the next round or two. The Colts first pick is at number 59 (and I think it's very unlikely that they would move up from there), and it is a very good chance that at least one of these players will be there, and very possibly more than one of them.
I looked at all three of them and here are my thoughts on them as a player and then after we look at the three of them, I'll give my opinion on what I think the Colts should do in the draft at the center position.
College: Colorado State
Weight: 298 pounds
Year: redshirt Senior
Projected Round: 2
- Athletic. Colorado State pulled a lot with him in the run game (and play action passes, too).
- Smart player. Called the shots along the line for Colorado State.
- Durable. Started 49/49 games.
- Strong center with a good frame. He will be able to handle bull rushers.
- Two time team captain. Great leader. High character guy.
- Level of competition. Played in the MWC (although he held his own against Alabama in 2013, too).
- While he can get to the second level, he sometimes struggles there.
- He's not the fastest off the ball, which can allow him to lose ground.
Weight: 320 pounds
Projected Round: 2-3
- Great build for an NFL center.
- Quicker off the snap.
- Good in pass protection especially.
- Has a lot of potential to be a very good starter in the NFL.
- Only one year at center at USC. Many thought he would stay in school another year.
- Has some trouble with surprise/moving blitzers.
- Doesn't play with the power he seems capable of.
- Plays too low.
Weight: 312 pounds
Year: redshirt Senior
Projected Round: 3
- Very smart player with high character. Very respected and was voted a two time captain by his teammates.
- Durable. Started 50/50 games.
- Played against a high level of competition and played well.
- Good in pass protection.
- Doesn't have great athleticism.
- Not the strongest player.
- Not a very versatile player. In other words, he's only going to play center.
- His upside isn't as high as others.
So what should the Colts do at center in the NFL Draft? Keep in mind, they don't have to draft one because they really like Khaled Holmes and signed Phil Costa. While I think they absolutely should address the position, something even worse than not addressing it would be reaching for one the Colts don't love just because they want a center. With only five picks in this draft and other positions that could use help, if they don't really like one of these centers, there is nothing wrong with walking away without one. At the same time, however, I don't want to give the perception that the center position is fine because, well, it's not. There are big question marks. Adding a center would be smart. Something they need to think through when approaching the center spot, however, is whether they really want a guy who can start now or whether they want a guy who could turn into a good starter in a year or two. They were fine to play Samson Satele in 2013 and let Holmes sit a year and develop, and so judging by their past precedent I would guess that they would be fine doing the same again. If that is the case, I would look long and hard at Marcus Martin. I would expect him to be available when the Colts pick at 59 and he is the guy who has the most upside of any center in the draft, in my opinion. The real question with him is whether he can reach that potential, but the Colts have also shown a tendency to take on projects. In other words, they have confidence in their coaching staff to develop players. Because of all of that, I think that Martin would be the best player to add for the Colts, and if need be he can play this year too. He has the most potential to turn into a good starter of anyone. At the same time, I would be perfectly fine taking Weston Richburg too and probably in five minutes will change my mind and say the Colts should take him. He's a durable player and is the guy who you can plug in to the middle of the line and then forget about. He's not going to be a star but he's going to be a very solid starter. That's about all you can ask for, and taking him would be a good move by the Colts. Swanson is the clear third in my mind, but he's still a good player. I would have to carefully consider him before spending a second round pick on him, however.
Really, I'll say that both Marcus Martin and Weston Richburg would be good options for the Colts at center at pick number 59 overall. If they're serious about adding a center, one of those two will likely be the choice. At the same time, however, I consider it unlikely that they'll actually add a center with that pick. Wide receiver and safety are both more likely - and as a result, I'll be doing a similar article on both of those positions as we approach the draft.
Stampede Blue draft contributor Steven Reed did a mock draft a few days ago and had Richburg going 48th overall to the Ravens, Martin going 61st overall to the 49ers, and Swanson going 62nd overall to the Patriots. Read the full mock of rounds two and three here.